Live sports, premium content, originals are three key growth pillars for SonyLIV

MUMBAI: Live sports, premium content, and originals are the three key pillars of growth for Sony Pictures Networks India’s (SPNI) OTT platform SonyLIV, which has seen a change in the management following the departure of its former head Uday Sodhi.

SonyLIV, which is being headed by Sony Entertainment Television (SET) business head Danish Khan, has a new team which includes Ashish Golwalkar, Aman Srivastava, Amit Raisinghani, and Amogh Dusad.

Speaking about the platform’s future plans, SonyLIV head programming, and new initiatives Amogh Dussad noted that the KPIs are quite clear for SonyLIV since it operates on a freemium model.

“We want to expand our engagement levels on AVoD and build a strong subscription base. We have a new leadership team as you are aware. Danish is leading the entire piece. Ashish and Aman have just joined in. This is the first step towards putting a gameplan into action. The drivers of our strategy remain live sport, premium content, and originals. We are looking to build all three in the coming quarter,” he stated.

Ashish Golwalkar, who heads content for SET and SonyLIV, said that the future is moving to an SVoD model. So the aim is to do things to increase the subscription base to a level where increasing the level of investment in original content happens.

“We have done some original content but there hasn’t been a massive play in terms of getting names and marquee properties. On SET, there have been big shows like ‘Kapil Sharma’, ‘Indian Idol’. A similar kind of path is something that we will follow on SonyLIV as well in terms of shows that we commission. We want to get the right investments into the right kind of ideas and content. We are open to all kinds of ideas,” he added.

The aim is to convert as much of the 250 million people on the Sony network to SonyLIV. “Within the universe that we have we have to create content and offerings so that they convert to SonyLIV.”

In terms of languages, Golwalkar noted that Hindi and English will be important. Since SPNI already operates channels in the Marathi and Bangla space there will be original content there. Then there are South markets being considered.

Dusad said that there is a huge sports following audience that follows soccer, tennis, cricket, and WWE. “Next year is a big year with the Olympics and Euro coming in. The other big chunk of viewership that comes is our catchup content with shows like ‘KBC’, ‘Indian Idol’, ‘Tarak Mehta’, ‘Crime Patrol’. These shows perform extremely well. There is also a longtail of viewership that comes from our iconic shows and older episodes. Our English content that is behind the paywall also gets good traction and we have deals with companies like Sony Pictures, Lionsgate, Sky for shows like ‘Good Doctor’, ‘Community’, ‘Anger Management’.”

The aim, he explained, is to put out a coherent consumer package that offers the right value at the right price point. Live sports, he said, is one of the strongest propositions in the freemium space because it has a sense of event around it. On the kids front, he said that this will come along at a later date. Some of Sony YAY!’s content is already present on SonyLIV but the platform is still charting its overall strategy in the kids space. This, he said, will be evaluated in great detail.

He said that catchup content drives the bulk of viewership. So SonyLIV’s strong markets tend to be those that watch SET and Sony Sab the most. But at the same time, he also does not feel that catchup TV is affecting the viewership of SET and Sony Sab.

“It marries the channel skews and we get tremendous traction from the top 10 cities. SET and Sab both have a heavy skew among urban, affluent audiences. That is what we see in the app as well. The top 10 cities contribute to 60-70% of SonyLIV’s consumption. The aim is to go deeper down in the Hindi markets. The South is also a big opportunity. Whatever we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Dusad further stated that some of the network’s television programming has a sense of event around every show. The way the programming gets relayed and the way the scripting is done especially on SET, the aim is to ensure that the consumer has the fear of missing out.

“While catch-up TV has an important role to play the consumer would not want to wait for two hours to catch the latest ‘Indian Idol’ episode on SonyLIV and miss out on social media conversations. SET has been on a viewership trot over the past four to five months. All the shows have shown a tremendous amount of growth. If people are at home they will not want to miss their favourite shows. Shows are watched on catchup if the viewers were not at home.”

He said that the deal with MXPlayer is about distribution. Ad sales is handled by SonyLIV. “Everyone is finding their own ways to collaborate and do things. With a new leadership having come in and a re-forecast of how we want to go about rolling out our strategy there may be different ways in which we want to associate and partner with apps.”

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